Topic: Book Club

Ries: Help Laura Think Of Brands That Need New Names.

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
After an exhaustive discussion of toothpaste marketing, it got me thinking about all the brands that needed a new name because they were first in a new category but didn't get one. Here are some I thought of:

WhiteStrips from Crest.
The name is a category name not a brand name.

Palm computer.
A category name not a brand name.

Lite beer from Miller.
Also a category name not a brand name.

Can you think of other examples where a new name would have been helpful for a brand to establish its identity?

A generic names makes it very difficult to build a brand and leaves you vulnerable to competition. Even competition that is also a line-extension can kill you.

Miller Lite was brought down by Bud Light. The leader's line extension always beats the number two guys line-extension, even if the leader is late into the market.

The only thing that has a chance to beat a leader like Bud Light is a focused brand that doesn't use a diet word like light in the name.

Moderator Note: This discussion refers to the book The Origin of Brands by Al and Laura Ries (topic: branding). Click the title to learn more. Then join the conversation. We'd LOVE for you to participate!
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  • Posted on Member
    Yellow Pages
    and now
    The Real Yellow Pages
  • Posted on Accepted
    "The leader's line extension always beats the number two guys line-extension, even if the leader is late into the market. "

    Interesting point, and that does make sense.
  • Posted on Author
    Softsoap is another brand that didn't give itself a proper brand name and used a category name. They would be stronger with a different name.
  • Posted by prhyatt on Accepted
    Here's an interesting one. What do folks think about Duck Tape? They used the popular pronunciation to set themselves apart--good idea or not?
  • Posted on Accepted
    Duck tape in my opinion is a great name. It's a good example of a common, generic name used out of context. is another. Both names are shocking, but have nothing to do with either ducks or rivers.

    When you use a common word "out of context," you can often created a secondary meaning for the word. Red Bull, for example.

  • Posted by Phoenix ONE on Accepted
    First Al & Laura, absolutely love your work- should be required reading for any college marketing student. Bottom Up Marketing is worth many rereads. Was fortunate to hear Al speak a few times and it was quite memorable.

    Here are a few to add to the above:

    Gorilla Glue - denotes strength not monkeys

    Jockey Shorts - nothing to do with horse racing.

    Polo Shirts -RL created an empire

    Fruit of the Loom - nothing to do with "apples" no pun intended.

    Gatorade- nothing to do with alligators (actually U of FL) but look at their competitors with line extensions (or acquisitions) -LEADERS who never overtook Gatorade's lead. Shows what great advertising and promo will do.

    Dairy Queen- not a cow in sight, and no royalty is ever present.

    Magic Markers - nothing magic about them

    And the all time winner via line extension is

    Coke Classic - Is a "classic white paper" in the leader trying to do a line extension or what I call a line perception that met with failure.

    There are too many instances of line extensions being nothing more than a line perception used for either defensive strategy or simply a VP of Marketing justifying his position.

    Hope these add some points to this discussion.

    Again Al & Laura, a pleasure

    ~ Bill
  • Posted on Author
    While it might sound appealing to use a descriptive/generic name for your brand in the short term, because people will know know what you do. In the long term, it can leave you very vulnerable to competition. And even if you had the advantage of being first you leadership can be easily wiped away. This is what happened in the Miller Lite case.

    Using common words and having a generic name are two separate things. Apple is a common word but used out of context, it is a brilliant name for a home computer geared towards students. It cannot be confused with the category at all and makes an excellent brand in the mind.

    Softscrub on the other hand is totally generic. (My spell check assumes it is lowercase and two words not a brand.) It is a category name and is a weak brand name. The same is true for Good Grips and Weight Watchers.

    Sometimes generic brand names will survive because they invented the category and were launched many many years ago like General Electric or Weight Watchers. These names simply would not work today on a new brand.

    PDA is a lousy category name, perhaps one of the reasons the category is dying. Palm computer makes much more sense as the category (desktop, laptop, palmtop) They should have used the Pilot name as the brand but lost rights to the name in a court case against the pen manufacturer.

    To succeed, a brand needs to establish what the new category is in simple terms. Otherwise it is a weird brand that consumers don't know how to file in the mind. Not a good position to be in. Think category first, brand second. Give the category a simple name (energy drink) and the brand a proper name (Red Bull)

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